Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Late Night with David

David was cornered. He had no other option, but to confess. These two sentences fit both Israel’s King David and late night talk show host David Lettermen. Both men abused their positions of power in order to have sex. Each was forced into a public confession. There is nothing to suggest that either of these Davids would have either admitted wrong doing or changed their behavior without first getting caught.

It remains to be seen how David Letterman’s career will fair after his on air confession of sexual relationships with female staff, happening in a suite he maintained at the studio. He did an admirable job of handling the blackmail by going public. With his confession, there was no further power to the blackmailer’s threats. He also made the man who wanted two million dollars to remain quiet face the music himself for his misdeeds as well.

I don’t write this to judge David Letterman. He has been forced to stand and confess in a much more public setting than the vast majority of men who have been unfaithful to their wives. Judgment on this, and all else, I leave to God. Instead, I wanted to take this very public confession of sin as an opportunity to look deeper at what is required to really put sin behind us and change our lives.

The Bible teaches that confession is only part of what we need to do when we fall short of the mark God sets for us. King David, not only confessed, but he repented. To repent means to genuinely feel sorry for what you have done, so that you both want to make things right and intend to change your behavior. This is what Peter preached in a sermon we have in the book of the Bible known as the Acts of the Apostles. Speaking even to those present for Jesus trial and crucifixion and others who knew of it and did nothing, Peter says, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

The New Testament word used for repent is “metanoia,” which is to change the way you think. The Old Testament Hebrew word for repent is “shuv,” meaning to turn around and go the other way. Both words suggest to make a real and significant change. Peter shows this by literally preaching that they should change their minds, and turn around from the direction they are headed and back toward God. For doing this, Peter tells the crowd they will not only find God’s forgiveness, they will also be refreshed.

So while confession is good, without changing how we thinking or changing the path we are on, we are destined to make the same mistake in the future. Think about in terms of someone with an addiction. If someone is addicted to alcohol and routinely gets drunk and goes drives home, confessing to driving drunk and wrecking the car into a neighbor’s mailbox is fine. But unless the drunk driver intends to replace the mailbox and stop getting drunk and going for a drive, the confession is not going to accomplish anything, no matter how genuine it is.

Even though God may forgive the incident, the driver is doomed to repeat it, until a change of mind and a change of life direction come along. Otherwise, the next wreck could take another humans life.

In this same way, King David needed to change his behavior. It was because he stayed home at the palace when his army went off to war that he had the leisure to be on the roof the night he saw Bathsheba bathing on another roof. He was where he wasn’t supposed to be, doing what he shouldn’t have been doing. Then he followed that with giving into temptation and using his position of power as king to have her brought to him. But David found that those things we do in secret don’t stay secret. The truth has a way of coming out. This was true in the time of King David of Israel and it remains true during the days of Late Night with David Letterman.

What we do under cover of darkness has a way of making it into the light. Real change comes not just from confessing these things we have done. Real and lasting change comes from changing our minds so as to see that our sins are not wrong because we got caught. Wrong is wrong whether caught or not. This takes a change of mind and a change of behavior.

What will become of David Letterman’s career remains to be seen. Whatever the consequence, it will be lessened by having confessed it himself. What follows is between him, the advertisers, the network and his fans. What happens to you, gentle reader, and I for the ways in which we let ourselves and God down is of much greater concern.

God is always ready to give you a second chance. What you are to do with that second chance is not merely to admit wrong doing, but to actually change your life. As you read this column, if there is something in you would prefer remain hidden, realize it is the time to change your thinking and turn back to God. It is not only kings and comedians who are brought low when the truth of their actions is known. Your secret sins have a way of becoming public. Wouldn’t you rather have already confessed to God (and to those you have harmed) and changed your life before others find out?

The Bible promises forgiveness, refreshment, and a new start for you if really do confess and repent. In other words, you are going to feel much better. Confession is good for the soul, but changing the course of your life for the better is even more deeply satisfying.

The text above is my religion column for today's issue of the Tribune & Georgian. Frank+



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